BEIJING - China will cap its total energy consumption at 4 billion tons of coal equivalent by 2015, said Zhang Guobao, former head of the country's National Energy Administration, on Friday.
The amount is set as a mandatory ceiling in the draft 12th Five-Year Program (2011-2015), Zhang told Xinhua in an exclusive interview. He is a member of the Standing Committee of the 11th National Committee of the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference.
The five-year period will see an average annual increase of 4.24 percent in energy use, he said. Last year, 3.2 billion tons of coal equivalent was consumed, Zhang added. .
"The task of energy conservation and emission cuts is arduous", he said, as he compared the growth of energy use with the 7 percent of annual economic expansion set by the central government during the five years to 2015.
China's economic boom in recent years has been fueled by rising consumption of energy. However, inefficient use of energy and pollution has posed a threat to sustainable and balanced growth.
Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao said on February 27 that China would never exchange a high economic growth rate at the cost of harming the environment. He said China would set annual economic growth target at 7 percent during the five years to 2015, lower than the 7.5 percent goal set for the five years through 2010.
Wen also said that China aimed to cut the amount of energy and carbon dioxide emissions needed for every unit of gross domestic product by 16 to 17 percent from this year to the end of 2015.
The two targets are also included in the five-year blueprint, Zhang said, as he called for more efforts to promote energy conservation and emission cuts.
The 12th Five-Year Program draft will be reviewed and is expected to be approved by deputies to the National People's Congress, which opens its annual session Saturday in Beijing.
China announced in 2009 that it pledged to cut carbon emissions per unit of gross domestic product (GDP) by 40 to 45 percent by 2020, relative to 2005 levels. In the five years to 2010, China achieved a 19.1 percent decrease in energy consumption per unit of GDP, close to its target of a 20 percent cut.
He said that the five-year plan would demand higher energy efficiency. China would start a trial program for energy saving and emission cuts and resource comprehensive utilization in sectors such as clean coal, oil refining, thermal power, nuclear power and renewable energies during the five-year period, he said.
Furthermore, he said that energy security is also a significant task through the five years when China will increase strategic reserves of oil and gas, while constructing storage bases for natural gas and coal.
He said that the recent turmoil in the Middle East had driven up international oil prices, raising the alert on energy security once again.
"Oil security is the most important part of achieving energy security," he said, adding that "preparations for alternative energies should be made as soon as possible."